On the way home

So what next? My most recent Camino, walking in hot central Spain has ended. The five weeks and 400km of sometimes striding out joyfully, sometimes stumbling out half asleep in the dawn is transferring to photos and videos and the “ do you remember?” basket. As is the occasional shambling grumpily over harsh, flat and sparsely treed terrain, the blisters and sore hip. All these experiences have undergone a metamorphosis. The good and bad and the indifferent, the highs and lows and contradictions are enveloped in that one word response to enquiries: “ Great”.

I have written “ done and dusted”.

I wonder about the connotation with dust, there are many idioms to do with dust: shake the dust off one’s heels. Raise the dust. Bite the dust. Dust off. Make the dust fly. Throw the dust in one’s eyes. Dry as dust . Let the dust settle. Dust is always moving, usually extraneous or not pleasant, to be avoided, a delusion or a trouble.

Dust oneself off, and start again . I’m a bit dusty. Ha, that one rings true. A dusty brain after Covid.

But there’s also fairy dust of course. And dust particles in the air. There’s a special dust in Philip Pullman’s trilogy His Dark Materials( 1995- 2000). The other side of waste and a dustiness that clouds one’s eyes or has to be brushed away are minuscule particles, scarcely seen by the naked eye, floating randomly in the atmosphere.

So the Camino has an ambiguous ending , at least for me. The Spanish walk is complete, yet it continues at home. Strangely the continuation is harder than that recent clear- cut walking every day in central Spain .

So much has been written about The Camino ( Frances) , caminos generally , and about” El Camino de la Vida”, the path of life. Some of this is , I think, just words , or like the dust thrown in eyes, deceptive . I hope I’m not adding more to a growing body of sentimentality. I’ve just remembered bull dust.An Australianism?

The turn -around -camino is a concept I came across when I reached the end of the Madrid Camino in Sahagun . The idea is to spend the time between the end and the return home contemplating and practicing the virtues or qualities / behaviours learned in the past weeks of walking day after day; contemplating the perennial questions of identity, becoming and change. The big one is how do I want to lead my life, or what there is left of it if you’re older. Each person will make their way home in their own way .

Now I’m home and finding it hard to adjust to my real life, in the place I have lived for the last forty years. I think this is a common claim by Camino people. For so long the main task each day is to get up and walk . There are no other people to worry about or to take care of, no food to prepare, no house to clean or dishes to wash. Not even clothes to select each morning, it’s whichever set of clothes that has been rinsed out in the sink the night before. Clean underwear and socks, of course (my mother taught me right, in case I was run over by a bus on the long cycle ride to school !). No makeup, just lots of sun cream and the good old standby moisturiser that doesn’t weigh much, Nivea!

Clothes hanging out to dry, overlooking Segovia roofs. My grey walking pants and Doug’s brown ones . Easy.

Now the jobs are lurking in each corner of this house: things to fix and buy and throw out . There are also bills to pay and work to be written . Food to buy and to be cooked.There are friends to contact and talk to.The cats await their biscuits each morning and the weeds loom green and long as it’s winter. Yes it’s winter and cold

What seemed clear cut in the turn-around is not as simple now. Cut out anxiety, be patient, don’t rush, keep your friends, be kind and loving . I reckon all those saints and writers advocating calm and acceptance of life’s happenings are single. They are single or living a monastic life.

“All shall be well and all shall be well . And all manner of thing shall be well “ wrote Julian of Norwich .

Does this help me now, back here in this life ? Those 15 Century words help a little,but the impact is lessening each day if I don’t hold onto them more tightly.So also is the memory of that striding out each day to the next place, the next discovery.A marvelling at the wonder of life.

I think it’s a matter of clutching at those metaphorical dust particles and watching them flicker and shine as they float around Its not all done and dusted yet, there are caminos to walk here. And there are other Spanish caminos too !